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Old 24th Jan 2016, 01:02 PM   #1
David cgc
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Default Star Trek - "Seekers" Title Sequence (Animation)

I didn't mention it in my forum post, but the impetus for making a model of the Sagittarius was the announcement of the "Seekers" book series, and how it was inspired by Rob Caswell's fan-art. The books are adventures in the Original Series era of Star Trek, with each novel alternating between the small scout ship, Sagittarius, and the large Constitution-class ship Endeavour. Some combination of elements started swirling in my head, and I started to see the beginnings of an opening credits take shape, but I'd need a model of the Sagittarius to even start. So, here we are, two and a half years later.

I usually don't post WIPs this early, but I've also never attempted a project like this, and I think it'll be helpful to document my progress. Plus, my reach is bound to exceed my grasp from time to time, and it'll help to have access to the F3D braintrust.

My concept was basically a faster and more intense version of the Star Trek: Voyager opening sequence: alternating between both ships flying by, through, and around weird outer space stuff. Luckily, we're in a golden age of weird outer space stuff art (I'm looking at the new "Cosmos" and the series-ending montage in the final episode of "Defiance" as particular inspirations). I was able to lock down some ideas pretty quickly, and they've been more or less solid (I think it's been a year since I decided on a shot that needed to be included). I have some more ideas for shots, but I've pushed those aside for a possible TMP-era version of the opening (which will require my designing and modeling a TMP-era version of the Sagittarius, so look for that around 2025). Another element I wanted to have was have it be a very "connected" sequence, as is the style of the time. I can't exactly do it all in one long take, but I wanted motivated transitions between shots.

An artifact of the timing of my conceiving the project is the opening theme I chose, "New Cap City" from the Caprica soundtrack, by Bear McCreary. Since I wanted to have every shot lead from one to the next, the music was important for setting a pace and tone.

This is a video of layout previews which I've knocked together to test out shot composition and timing. Most of the scenery is placeholders, and some is absent entirely, with just the ships flying over the layout grid. The sequence is ten shots which total about 90 seconds. I thought about posting a version with my "idea board" in the corner, where I cut in existing images and animations as placeholders to work out a rough timing for each shot, but I'm afraid my influences are already obvious enough as it is.

I've already got some work to do on this before I start working on individual shots, so here are my notes, one by one.

1. This is probably the one I'm happiest with. I will have to do something about the shuttlecraft's path or speed (it passes through the Endeavour's warp engine just before the cut), and I want some more stuff in the background. IIRC, the "Seekers" books mention the ships' new home port is Starbase 12, a newer facility that's having a Watchtower-class space station being built in orbit, so I'm thinking a half-constructed station, plus more box docks, and maybe an Orbital Office to tie it all together. For the look of the planet, I'm thinking of riffing off this Tobias Richter image of the Titan visiting a planet-based Watchtower, since the fun of having a shared universe is making things as tied-together as possible. I definitely want to have some sort of stellar landmark, be it rings, a moon, or nebula, because...

2. The Sagittarius is taking off from the same planet the Endeavour is orbiting. For the ground facility, I'm thinking something like a half-built Starbase 11 from TOS, but I'm not 100% on this. This is set in the tail end of the TOS era, only a couple years before TMP, so I may decide to incorporate more of that design language into the scenery. The animation of the ship taking off is awful, but I've already figured out how I'm going to get around it. My plan is for the ship to flip over and roll around as it flies off, motivating a cross of the 180-line for the rest of the sequence. By the way, if anyone knows any tutorials about animating swoopy, acrobatic flying sequences without everything falling apart due to gimbal lock and tweening errors, I'd love to see them.

3. I'm thinking I'm going to try a different camera move for the Endeavour pulling out of drydock, I'm not happy with this one. Same scenery in the background as the first shot, of course, though I'm not sure how much of it will read since it's behind the drydock.

4. For this shot, we're tracking over a planet's rings, which the Sagittarius rises through and over. I'm not married to the timing of the titles coming in, I'll need to finesse that. I'm also going to speed up the animation of the ship slightly, so that it's risen out of frame entirely when the cut occurs.

5. For the real space station, I'm thinking some grungy frontier outpost, owned by no one and frequented by the most disreputable people in space. A floating Mos Eisley, in other words. It'll probably be the Dark Range Platform from the novel "The Ashes of Eden" unless I can think of something that'd look more interesting.

6. There's going to be an ancient city which the Sagittarius is flying over in this shot. I'm hoping the transition between the warp nacelle dome in the prior shot and a golden sky in this shot will be, you know, possible. I think I'm going to eliminate the turn up and away at the end and just have the ship continue forwards.

7. This one is also a shot I'm fairly happy with as-is. For the background, I'm planning to do a planet with a scaffolding or structure around it, inspired by this image.

8. In this shot, the Sagittarius will be flying over dense clouds in a gas giant, with lightning storms going on, and electrical arcs following the ship as it passes by.

9. This one is going to require some cheating at render-time to get the shadows to line up the way I want, but the big issue right now is slowing down the ship so it isn't so far past the moon when the shot ends.

10. The beginning of the big finale seems fine to me, but something feels mechanical about the way the camera pans to follow the ships. I don't like how they both appear to come to a dead stop before going to warp, and there's a little wiggle thanks to an "align to path" error.

So, that's what I've got so far. First, I'll be doubling back to adjust the animation on some of the shots. Once I'm completely happy with this animatic, I'll start tackling the project one shot at a time, building whatever models are necessary and getting the scenes render-ready.
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